Saturday 11 June 2022

WTF goes on in storage units??

Last year I had cause, for the first time ever, to rent a small lockup in a large, purpose built storage emporium, one of a well-known chain.  It's very slick, they really do have it down to a fine art (as behoves the providers of any commoditised service like that).  I was moderately interested in the list of prohibited items - seemed reasonable enough to debar explosives etc - and I did notice the sign that said the Police and HMRC have the right to force entry ...

That ain't just spare garden furniture going up ... (story below)

Another thing that became obvious was that some folks used their units for the most bizarre things.  (Although the place is mostly deserted, you do catch the odd glimpse.)  E.g. a significant hoard of one-armed bandits, wrapped up in that clingfilm that people wrap their suitcases in at airports.  Also that on a Monday morning, a truly enormous lockup is prone to dispense vast quantities of palletised cans of soft drinks onto a juggernaut using a fork-lift.  Clearly, I'd not realised the industrial aspect of these places.  Oh, and on Saturdays some lockups attract whole families, coming to poke around (and block up the lifts with trolleys - what sport).

Next thing I noticed was that, of a week day, there were two quite large lockups, either side of a corridor, double-doors wide open, music playing, in which two ladies were - or rather, are - running an interesting and rather fragant business, packing up all manner of brightly coloured little stuff (trinkets, food parcels) into very neat little containers.  There's a lot of sumptuous Asian fabric involved, and the smells (which hang permanently in the corridors) are very pleasant.  This operation requires workbenches, a lot of orderly rackspace, big inventories, and not a little electricity for the lighting and various other pieces of equipment they have.  An Alladin's cave of goodies!  Making up gifts for guests at Asian weddings, maybe?  It isn't the done thing to poke into other people's business(es) in these places ... 

Anyhow, this week the storage firm issued updated T's & C's in order to prohibit, inter alia, the following newly banned items and activities: 

  • power invertors and power generators
  • cremation ashes
  • use of any charging equipment (including power banks, portable chargers or similar) when you are not with such equipment or when the Store reception is closed
  • use any power inverters or power generators (generators ? what, diesel???)
  • use more than one (1) computer server at any time
  • carry out crypto mining
Wow.  I am obviously a very pedestrian client.  

I did then recall an incident a few years ago at another such storage place nearby, which burned to the ground in a fire so fierce, the whole rather basic steel-and-concrete-cube edifice essentially melted - 120 firefighters involved, the whole works (photo above).  Now hang on:  what on earth is being stored that causes a blaze like that, where steel-and-concrete doesn't survive?

Wow again.  You may be sure I've acquainted myself carefully with the fire exits (which do indeed seem pretty good, with vast ports for pumping in foam).  No wonder they worry about some of the items on their list.  (Cremation ashes!)  The world of anonymous, frequently deserted** places is indeed a very strange place.  Anybody got any entertaining stories from this whacky realm?



** except Saturdays and Monday mornings, obviously


Clive said...

Ah, the mysterious and sometimes dubious world of storage units!

Not sure just how many people are aware of the small and medium sized businesses which use storage units as premises or quasi-industrial units. They shouldn't be doing this, of course, as the terms and conditions of use prohibit this sort of thing -- and the planning consent for the units themselves drive the terms and conditions of what the service offered is (to prevent, or try to, this sort of unauthorised use and subsequent breach of planning regulations).

But it's one of those areas where isn't not only in the interests of the businesses which operate using these cheap and cheerful grey-market industrial units to try to get away with it. It's also in the interests of the storage unit owner/operators to turn a blind eye. Because sole traders or small businesses using storage units as premises is a nice little earner. I've a hunch it's part of the business model for storage units to rely on this income stream.

I also know first-hand of one fairly large (but definitely dubious) maintenance contractor most people would have heard of which operates more-or-less nationwide and follows this pattern of operating out of storage units.

andrew said...

I sort of knew someone who had a set of lockup garages who shopped any dodgy individuals to the police who took away the stolen stuff and then sold anything left.
Not sure it ended well...

Bill Quango MP said...

Went to collect a car part from a firm. Indicator unit.
Same address as the storage unit.

Turned out, it was not only a parts storage centre. But an entire body shop with resprays and accident repairs.

dearieme said...

Vaguely related: I used to store paperwork (deeds, wills, ...) and a couple of heirlooms in a safety deposit at Lloyds Bank. Then they wrote to say they were closing it. I went in to talk over the alternatives. Ah, they said, strictly we are moving it to Scotland and when you want the contents we'll get them to you within three working days. Or maybe - my memory isn't clear - they'd get them to the local bank branch in that time.

Anyway I withdrew all our stuff. Later I considered buying gold coins and storing them in the safety deposit of the one local bank that still offers the service. But the T&Cs ruled out storing precious metals and jewels.

There are times when I think Mrs Thatcher might never have lived. Jesus, British service "industries" are hopeless.

Don Cox said...

Service "industries" are large companies. The larger the organization, the less the service.

The usual thing to do with gold coins is to bury them for archaeologists to find later.

I think Nick's account of lockups and all the enterprising things people are doing in them is the most hopeful thing I've seen for a while. So long as the government doesn't find out about it, there's hope for the British economy.

Don Cox

Nick Drew said...

@ The larger the organization, the less the service

In this case, Don, per the post, the storage firm I use is providing a stonking service (seemingly including that Turn-a-Blind-Eye facility, though I didn't ask for that one meself) - I can't think of how they'd make it easier to use. And the staff are clued up and friendly, when you need them

It is, of course, a very competitive business - at least, round our way in extensive London suburbia

There's nothing quite like good service delivered in bulk at reasonable prices: think Premier Inn. If only the NHS ...

E-K said...

Don't read on if you wish to remain in a hearty mood.


My younger brother killed himself on the morning of my birthday this week. Walked off into the rain in the middle of the night with a bottle of scotch and a flask of sleeping tablets and left a suicide note. He'd been ill for some months.

It took me nine hours to get to my Mum's that day by train/taxi to the back of beyond (possibly one of the hardest parts of the country to get to.)

She's with me now and will stay permanently. I already did part of the caring for her on block days off so know the ropes on that and banking etc (thank God !) David was her main carer.

This act has plunged Mum and his widow into purgatory. I've been so rushed off my feet with rearranging things and dealing with the police that it hasn't fully sunk in yet.

Timbo614 said...

Kev, I know there are no words that I can say that will help you today. It is two years just over now (1st June 2020) since my son killed himself and even though your brother was unwell, the shock and the disbelief added to your obvious sorrow will be so hard to bear for the next few days and weeks.

When asked "what do we do tomorrow?" by my daughters on that awful night I said: "You get up and you go on, you make your children's breakfasts, we need to look after the living while we mourn the dead". It sounds to me that you are doing just that and it is the right thing.

I really feel for you tonight.


Nick Drew said...

That's dreadful, Kev. Heartfelt best wishes from all at C@W, BTL and ATL

Timbo is right. "Life is for the living" - an ambiguous slogan, and both meanings are right.

Bill Quango MP said...

Such bad news. Do what you can to get through. Such sorrow.

Caeser Hēméra said...

My condolences Kev, words always ring hollow at such times, so I'll just say best wishes to you and your family.

E-K said...

Thank you all. I'm finding inner resources that I didn't know I had. I'm OK. Really. He was not just my brother but my best friend. He was the first I'd reach to on the phone to tell good news... even before my wife !

All of my concern is with my mother and his wife.

I am so sorry to hear that, Timbo. Your news has hit me harder than my own, if I'm honest. I'm not sure I could endure what you have. Bless you.

Timbo614 said...

"I'm OK. Really." For a while, yes maybe, you are in "automatic mode" doing what needs to be done - I remember being that way while as you say, dealing with the the police and initially the coroner etc. All that necessary stuff.

But here's some honest truth from me: after about the first week-ish the women in my life (wife and daughters) decided I wasn't coping as well as I thought and the eldest daughter took over a large percentage of the official stuff including funeral arrangements etc.

I'm just saying be careful with "I'm OK. Really." and ask for or don't refuse help even if you don't think you need it.

Your news, even though we only know each other via this blog brought it all back. I didn't mean to add to your load.

Sympathy and support, Tim.

Anonymous said...

Truly sorry for your loss Kev.

lilith said...

Dearest Kev, I am so very sorry to hear this. Devastating for you all and particularly shocking for your mother and his wife for whom he was there one minute and gone the next. I am so,so sorry.

lilith said...

And Tim. There are no words. Bless you.

E-K said...

Thanks Tim,thanks M and thanks Lilith.

I really AM OK. This has been going on for years now. I realise coercive abuse only in a different way to that handed down from my father.

I'm really not buying it.

This was the ultimately timed insult.

My birthday

Mum's 80th

Both my boy's graduations later this month. After 6 year's long slog with one of them, four with the other (and masses of debt.)

My lad's first appointment as F1 doctor Aug 3rd.

Time, sympathy, effort lavished upon him by all around... but it had to be all about him. Fucking Meghan Markel in extreme.

No sympathy needed. I'm extremely annoyed. Fuming in fact.

andrew said...

My condolences.
An unexpected death is a terrible thing under any circumstance, and a non accidental one is much worse.

As others have said, it is probably a good idea to talk to someone. That can help stop the echoes of the event ... echoing.

E-K said...



The echoes stop now. This ends now. The curse is over.

Anonymous said...

Good luck Kev.

Back to the weekend story (if that's OK with everybody). I see from reading around that Croydon warehouse blaze story, lot's of clients lost a load of crazy things. "Everything I own". "My vintage pinball machine business." "Mark Brewer said he had lost £180,000 worth of stock from his beauty business." "All my furniture."

They mostly didn't seem to be insured. Reading between the lines they were also freely lying to the storage company about what they had in there.

Fire Brigade says densely packed furniture burns like that, so maybe not particularly sinister.

Anonymous said...

Just catching up here. I was so sorry to hear your news Kev. Love and best wishes to you and your family. What a shock. Please look after yourself as well as all you're doing for everyone else.


(I don't want a google account so will appear as anon and sign in the body of the post. What was wrong with the old way?? I'm not giving them my data.)

DJK said...

Kev: Best wishes from me as well. Words are inadequate, but it's all we have in cyberspace.

Timbo: Goes for you too. How could one cope with the loss of a child? But as you say, we simply must, for the sake of the living.